AT FIRST SIGHT. It's not a romantic comedy, it's not a
horror film, it's that mutant that lives somewhere in between.
It's in that special place where grown men dress like clowns and
mothers form better bonds with their daughters by dying. This
time the couple consists of the uncharismatic Virgil (Val Kilmer),
a blind man, and Amy (Mira Sorvino), his true love. She finds
a miracle cure that allows him to regain his vision, and they
hit many obstacles, such as maudlin music, Kilmer's distractingly
huge capped teeth, and bad dialogue. ("So this is what beautiful
looks like.") But when all is said and done, all those Coca-Cola
product placements Virgil can see don't mean a darn thing. Of
course not, because the best kind of seeing is not done with the
eyes, but with the heart. Please, take my word for it and stay
away from this genre-bending freak show.
BLAST FROM THE PAST. It's October 1962, and the Webbers (Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek) think a nuclear war has started. Just as they enter their bomb shelter, Mrs. Webber gives birth to a boy. Oddly enough, 35 years later that boy has become Brendan Fraser, who really doesn't even look old enough to be Brendan Fraser's age (30). So he rises to the surface world where he is mistaken for the son of God. Now, Fraser is cute, really cute, but not quite Jesus cute, so at this point the movie starts to strain its credibility. Nonetheless, he bumbles about with the help of Alicia Silverstone (remember her from those Aerosmith videos?), learning about all the zany stuff that's happened since the Kennedy administration, like cheap sex and Internet porn. Then more craziness ensues. Because it's a comedy. --DiGiovanna
HILARY AND JACKIE. The true story (well, this is widely
disputed, but at least the putatively true story) of Hilary and
Jackie Du Pré, two sisters whose lives seem like a PBS
docudrama. Both were promising musicians, but Hilary decided to
settle down and raise a family while Jackie went off on a globe-hopping
tour of classical music superstardom. Of course, the family-oriented
sister has a quiet, happy and fulfilling life, while the famous
sister is incessantly unsatisfied and must come to a tragic end.
Still, a very original directorial style saves this from being
a simple cautionary tale, and makes for some aesthetically appealing,
if downbeat, cinema.
HURLYBURLY. It's a common refrain of first-year film school students that film is a "visual medium." They say this whenever a talky picture comes their way as a means of dismissing it without too much thought. What's missing from this little axiom is that ever since the 1920s, film has also been an auditory medium...you can verify this by going to just about any movie and listening for noises, sounds and sweet airs. Hurlyburly is definitely not a visual film; its 122 minutes are filled with almost endless chatter, delivered at cocaine-frenzied pace by Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri and Garry Shandling. Needless to say, with a cast like that the performances are fabulous, and the David Rabe-penned dialogue is up to the challenge these actors lay down. Hurlyburly tells the story of four misogynistic, drug-addicted, Hollywood players who lapse into rapid-fire philosophizing between snorts of blow and meaningless sexual encounters with underage runaways. Penn and Spacey are roommates and a kind of post-ethical odd couple, with Spacey's cold demeanor and imperturbable impeccability igniting Penn's hysterical bundle of male emotions. If verbal acrobatics and Actor's Studio performances are your cup of tea, Hurlyburly is probably your best bet amongst the current crop of movies. On the other hand, if you're looking for a slow-moving meditation on the imagery of early spring, you'd best shop elsewhere. --DiGiovanna
LITTLE VOICE. Jane Horrocks, probably best known for her role as Bubbles on Absolutely Fabulous, stars in the filmic version of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, a play written to showcase her talent for imitating the singing voices of such greats as Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey. The character "Little Voice" is a soft-spoken, pastel-wearing introvert who's overshadowed by her tawdry mum Mari (Brenda Blethyn), who shouts some of the best dialog (such as referring to her lover's genitalia as "meat and veg") and wears similarly boisterous outfits. Ray (Michael Caine), Mari's man and a promoter for such class acts as the chubby male strip crew "Take Fat," discovers her musical abilities and attempts to exploit them in a sleazy nightclub. Little Voice resists, supported only by her father's ghost and a pigeon-obsessed telephone repairman (Ewan MacGregor). This simple and satisfying story about discovering the importance of being heard is affectionately directed by Mark Herman, and offers a host of excellent performances.--Higgins
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE. The whole time I was watching How Stella Got Her Groove Back, I kept wondering what the film would be like if Stella were actually a squishy, bland middle-aged white guy being stalked by someone half his age rather than a buff, in-her-prime black woman pursuing a younger man. Well, here's the two-plus-hours-long answer. It would be like watching a Candida Royale porn film: painfully slow paced, enveloped in soft lighting, and with the overwhelming presence of every woman's worst nightmare--the self-proclaimed Sensitive Male. Kevin Costner plays the monster in question, a widower named Garret who wrote some messages to his dead wife and then put them in bottles. The much younger Theresa (Robin Wright Penn), a researcher for the Chicago Tribune, finds one of his letters on a slow news day and locates him in a small town in North Carolina. She teaches him how to love again, and, unfortunately for us, Garret likes the slow jams and subjects us to an embarrassingly stupid sex scene. Paul Newman gives a good show as Garret's grumpy father, and Illeana Douglas is ever-charming, if wasted in her usual wacky sidekick role. Aside from them, it's one drawn-out, wish-Fabio-were-here scene after the next. Take your hankies, ladies, because you'll need something to wipe up the mess after this pukefest. --Higgins
SHE'S ALL THAT. A remake of every '80s teen film, which would compete well with the best of them, if only I hadn't already seen this story so many times. Popular boy loses girlfriend, accepts bet to turn dorky girl into prom queen, falls in love with her. Not a bad effort, but Patrick Dempsey's legacy is safe. --DiGiovanna
A SIMPLE PLAN. Director Sam Raimi takes the campy, violent
and juvenile sensibility that he honed to perfection on such films
as Evil Dead and Darkman, and such television productions
as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena, Warrior
Princess, and chucks it out the window for this subtle and
very grown-up film noir piece. An accountant (the omnipresent
Bill Paxton), his mentally challenged brother (the also kind of
omnipresent Billy Bob Thornton) and his brother's trashy, drunken
friend (the largely unknown Brent Briscoe) find four million dollars
inside a wrecked plane in a snow covered forest. They decide to
hide the money until they know whether or not the heat is on.
In standard noir fashion, double crosses, murders and intrigues
ensue. The script is, obviously, not terribly original; but it
is perfectly paced and plotted, a flawless rendition of this time-worn
story. And Bridget Fonda wears this incredible fake-pregnant-belly
prosthesis...probably the finest fake-belly prosthesis since they
made the waif-like Marlon Brando look fat in The Island of
Dr. Moreau. Although you should probably see it for the disturbing
and evocative story of ordinary evil, rather than for the fake-belly
prosthesis. But it's a really good fake-belly prosthesis. Really.
SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE. It's kind of a hybrid of Like Water
for Chocolate, The Little Mermaid, and one really long commercial.
You have Amanda (Sarah Michelle Gellar), a woman empowered by
her cooking, an annoying crustacean who guides her to Prince Charming,
and numerous trips to a department store. Gellar, our beloved
Buffy, gives up vampire slaying for a couple of hours to pursue
Tom (Sean Patrick Flanery) via her newfound power to prepare meals
that solicit extremely emotional responses, from sadness to desire.
The problem here is that, as with so many romantic comedies, there
isn't sufficient character development to understand why Amanda
and Tom want to get together in the first place. And when they
do finally declare their movie love to one another, the ending
seems far from happy. Amanda uses her gourmet prowess primarily
to catch her man, and Tom only seems to like her clothes and "bold
taste in dishware." They'll get divorced in six months.
WAKING NED DEVINE. Ah, the clever Irish. When they're not plotting world domination or making those Tamagotchis and lederhosen that they're so famous for, you can usually find them doing those slithery, funky, dances to those crazy jungle beats. So, what could be more fun than watching a village of 52 Irish persons try to con the Irish National Lottery out of nearly seven million Irish pounds ("pound" or "punt" is a zany Irish word for 1.4695 dollars)? I'll tell you: nothing. Waking Ned Devine is good, clean Irish fun, even if it does include some shots of naked Irish men. Really old naked Irish men, so don't get all excited. Naked old Irish people are in no way pornographic. And Waking Ned Devine is full of non-naked fun and surprises, too, like village intrigues, fake eulogies, pints of Guinness and a swiftly moving plot that unfolds against gorgeous landscapes that were shot on location in the Isle of Man. Which is just so Irish, to shoot a movie about Ireland in another country. So rather than waste your time going to some Babylonian or Akkadian movie that will just try to numb you with explosions and pseudo-snappy catch-phrases, go see this refreshing and crisp Irish film that features spot-on acting by Ian Bannen and David Kelly as Irish men, and funny, believable dialogue by the extremely Irish writer/director Kirk Jones. Well, okay, Kirk Jones is English, but he's so good he should be Irish. --DiGiovanna
LESBIAN LOOKS. The seventh annual Lesbian Looks Film
and Video series commences February 12, with three consecutive
Fridays of Sapphic cinema. This weekend brings After the Second
Date, featuring 14 New York City lesbians discussing love
and sex; and Treyf, a documentary about two Jewish lesbians
who met and fell in love at a Passover seder. Next week's presentation
will be a selection of shorts, and February 27 will offer five
films about romance. All screenings begin at 7:30 p.m. in the
Modern Languages Building auditorium, on the UA campus. For further
information, check out the web site at http://w3.arizona.edu/
~lgbcom/lgbfilm.htm; or call 621-1239.
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